Monday, December 31, 2012

papa was a...

Know what I'd love to see?

I'd love to see Mick Jagger's and Keith Richards' children form a band and do a version of "Papa Was a Rolling Stone."

Friday, December 7, 2012

musicifying with hp

I am still planning to record a track with wreckless eric and amy rigby. That will probably happen some time next month. At least now I have the song to record.

I had three songs that were complete. But I also already have servicable demos of each of them. So rerecording with Amy and Eric would, in a sense be a lost opportunity. Sure, I'd have a recording of Wreckless Eric doing one of my songs. But it wouldn't increase the number of sonmgs I could put on a demo disc to send to producers, etc.

So my plan was to write a new song. Which I did. The song, "Five Missing One," is meant to be an old-time western-style song. I've been kind of sitting on the idea for a while, letting it gestate. I asked my friend, HP (whom I'm visiting and about whose music I have blogged before), if he would be interested in collaborating on it when I was visiting him on vacation. I ended up writing pretty much the whole song in the week or two before vacation, and tonight sat down with HP to finish it up and record a rough demo. In the event, it didn't need much more songwriting. There were a couple places that I had alternate lyrics that I was choosing between, and HP helped me decide. There were places where I wasn't sure that I had the right chord, and HP helped me with that as well. There were a few places where he helped me improve the melody. But HP said he doesn't think he contributed enough to justify sharing the songwriting credit. So, even though I offered to register the copyright in both of our names, he said to do it in just my name.

And we recorded a rough demo. It's three tracks -- me on guitar, HP on lead vocals, and HP doing harmony. It'd not a perfect demo. There's some distortion on the guitar track, and it's definitely too fast. But I think it's good enough to take to Wreckless Eric and Amy Rigby.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

validation

It's interesting how I get a thrill when a song I love comes on the radio. Nick Lowe's "Cruel to Be Kind" or Dave Edmunds' "I Hear You Knockin'" are two good examples. It doesn't matter that I have the song in my CD collection and I can pretty much listen to it whenever I want. Somehow it's a special thrill and I have to hear it all the way through. I think it's somehow about my taste being validated.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

hey you

Nighttime. We're driving through the Nevada desert. The kids are drowsy and starting to fall asleep. I'm flipping through radio stations to stay awake. Pink Floyd's "Hey You" comes on, and I stop flipping. Then Sharon, my middle child asks me to change stations. "This song is creepy," she informs me.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

concert at eric and amy's place

This past Saturday night I went upstate to Catskill, NY. Wreckless Eric and Amy Rigby were giving a house concert to raise money for victims of hurricane Sandy. Or was it superstorm Sandy? Anyway, it was the best concert I ever went to. No. Not the "best" concert, whatever that means. But of all the concerts I have ever been to, it was the one I enjoyed the most.

Details to follow. For now, here's a link to Eric's blog, where he wrote about it. http://thedysfunctionalworldof.blogspot.com/2012/11/the-hurricane-house-concert.html

Monday, October 15, 2012

nick lowe concert

Kids notwithstanding, I went to the Nick Lowe concert that I'd been so looking forward to.

Downside first: Apparently Nick doesn;t come out to sign autographs. That was a dissapointment. One of the nice things about being a fan of musicians who are, to be polite, not at the peak of popularity, is that getting autographs or a simple handshake is relatively possible. Oh well.

I was in the tenth row, near the center, in a venue that doesn't really have any bad seats. I wasn't as close as I was at the recent Wreckless Eric concert, but I was close enough to see Nick's expressions, and to feel that I was truly seeing him (as opposed to ants at a distance or an image on a jumbotron. Nick performed solo. Just him and an acoustic guitar. For some reason I thought he'd have a band behind him. No matter.

Predictably, Nick concentrated on songs from his cronner era, which is generally placed at The Impossible Bird and everything since. Disagreeing with conventional wisdom, I don;t think of Bird or his subsequent album, Dig My Mood, as part of that era; they were kind of transitional. I think the crooner stuff began with The Convincer. That would mean it currently consists of that lbum, At My Age and The Old Magic.

He opened with "Stoplight Roses" from Magic, and also did "Sensitive Man," "Somebody Cares for Me," "I Read a Lot" and "House for Sale." from that album. There may have been others -- I wrote down titles as he played the songs (there were 21 in all, including two encores), but I am writing this from memory. There was also "I Trained Her to Love Me" from Age, "Lately I've Let Things Slide" from Convincer and "Soulful Wind" and "I Live on a Battlefield" from Bird. About the latter song, Nick told the audience that Diana Ross did a cover of it. It wasn't her finest hour, he said, but it did buy him a new bathroom.

But along with the new, he did play some older Rockpile-era (and even pre-Rockpile-era) songs. The second number he performed was "Heart" from the Rockpile album, and he did "When I Write the Book" from that album as well. At other points he performed "I Knew the Bride," "Raining Raining" and "Without Love."

"(What's So Funny 'bout) Peace Love and Understanding," another of his early numbers kind of annoyed me. He has explained in many interviews that it was written as a sarcastic piece, poking fun at hippies. When he did it with Brinsley Schwarz it had a certain acerbic bite. That was accentuated when Elvis Costello covered it turning it into a real snarling thing. But after 9-11 it has been retrofitted as a serious plea -- sort of Nick's answer to John Lennon's "Give Peace a Chance." And, of course, in this day --when we are at war, with the situation worsening in post-war Iraq, and talk of possible forays into Syria or Libya or Iran -- such a song goes over quite well in deep blue area like Port Washington. But I see the plea as very simplistic. I would prefer the sarcastic version of the song.

After performing his one US hit, "Cruel to Be Kind," Nick noted that some of his contemporaries feel trapped by their lone hit -- they have to keep playing it over and over, and they don't like it. (Was that, BTW, a jab at opening act Jim Keller who didn;t play "867-5309/Jenny"?) But he still loves to play his hit. And that was a good example of Nick's charm with the crowd. His between-song patter was relaxed. He talked about how this was his first time playing in the area (Port Washington specifically, nit the whole New York metro area). He then went on to note that the mayor of some town in the upper west -- he named the town, but I don't recall -- picked him up at the airport, that some other town in Nebraska is the home of the Nick Lowe sub sandwich. But here he is unrecognized and can walk down the street undisturbed. He hopes, he said, to change that.

I will say that I thought Elvis Costello's "Allison" was an odd choice to end the show. Why such a downbeat vinegary close?

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

the first concert i went to

Writing yesterday's post about concert venues reminded me of the first concert I attended back in 1983. It was Nick Lowe at the Nassau Coliseum. For those who don't know, that's the arena on Long Island where the Islanders play. So we're talking about a big venue, though not the monster venue that is the Meadowlands. I should note that it wasn't really a Nick Lowe concert. It was a Tom Petty concert, and Nick Lowe was the opening act.

And, of course, I went for the opening act. Nick was supporting his then-new release, The Abominable Showman. I remember the thrill when he took the stage. I remember shouting "We want action!" at several points, in a vain attempt to request the opening track on the new album (which was titled "We Want Action"). I remember being dissapointed that he didn;t play that song, although he did play "Ragin' Eyes" after pointing out that he had a new album out. I don't really remember what else he played. I do remember that I couldn't really see him clearly, because of the distance. But I didn't really mind. I was at my first rock concert and I was thrilled.

I left after Nick's set, so I didn't see Tom Petty's performance, though I saw a few bits as I was walking trying to find the exit. If I had it to do over, I'd probably stay to see his act.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

i prefer a small venue

After I went to see Wreckless Eric and Amy Rigby perform, and anticipating the upcoming Nick Lowe show (which is this coming Sunday, by the by), my wife found a deal on Bruce Springsteen tickets. Half price to see him at the Meadowlands (technically, Met Life Park, or whatever it is that they call the big football stadium where the Giants and Jets play their home games).

I passed.

$60 for a ticket to see a concert at a huge venue like that doesn't really appeal. The problem with huge venues is that I don't really feel like I'm seeing the musician live. I'm so far away that all I can see is specks on the stage. I know that that speck in the middle is Bruce Springsteen (or whoever, depending on the show), but I can't really see him. There are lots of big screens to help out, but I may as well be watching a screen at home. Never mind the traffic and other logistics of getting to such a show -- although I'll admit that that is particular to the show. A concert at Shea Stadium Citifield would be easy for me to get to but still has the other drawbacks.

Now, don't get me wrong. I don't mean to diminish Springsteen. I know he's a great performer and showman. I'm told he puts on four hecks of a show. And I even like a godd bit of his music, though I could hardly be classified as a rabid fan. But the downsides of such a show are just too much.

In that sense I am lucky that my favorite musicians aren't exactly household names. My ticket to see Amy and Eric was $15. I was sitting maybe ten feet from the stage -- and I could've been closer if I'd wanted. I could feel the vibrations when Eric jumped. And it's not because the sounds were amplified. I could see the strings on his bass quivering. I could see his face squished in concentration. When Amy broke a guitar string I could see it dangling from the headstock. I could see it getting in the way of her fingers on the frets. And I don't mean that I could see it in an image projected on a Jumbotron. Looking directly at her guitar I could see the strings and the fingers and the frets themselves. That's more esciting than anything I'd see at the Meadowlands. And I talked to Eric and Amy before and after the show. I got to connect with the performer.

And the upcoming show... $45 for my ticket -- yes that's significantly higher than the Eric and Amy ticket, but Nick Lowe is a bigger draw for a variety of reasons. At any rate, it's still cheaper than the Springsteen ticket would have been, and that would have been half price already. My ticket is in the tenth row, just off-center. As with the Eric show, I'll be close enough to see everything. It won't be quite as intimate -- this is a real theatre with seats -- and assigned seats at that -- while the other was the basement of a bar. but it'll still be good

Monday, October 1, 2012

when names change

One thing that causes my anal-retentive self a bit of agita is when bands either change their namess or are inconsistent in their spelling.

I like to organize my music alphabetically by band or artist. Admittedly, my CDs haven't been organized for quite some time, but that's another story -- and even so, there's still the database that I'm forever trying to complete. But my organizational efforts are hampered by a few bands that don't have the decency to be consistent.

Now, when a band records under a completely different name (e.g., Brinsley Schwarz recorded and released some tracks as "The Knees"), that's fairly straightforward. I enter those tracks as recorded by the band under whose name they were recorded. In the example cited, I list those tracks as being by The Knees.

But there are other cases where things aren't quite so easy for anal-retentive me. Following are a few examples:

The Toy Dolls
The British punk rock group's tenth album, Orcastrated,  has their name on the cover spelled as "Toy Dollz." Note the "Z" at the end. I could ignore the missing "The" at the beginning -- lots of bands add and remove "the" all willy nilly without regard for the anal-retentive among their fans. But the "Z" bothered me. Alphabetically, keeping the album separate wasn't a big deal, since "Toy Dollz" comes right after "Toy Dolls." But part of me wants to list them as a different band, and list all the tracks as by the "other" band. Of course, many of those tracks also appear on compilation albums, so those albums would show tracks by both "Toy Dolls" and "Toy Dollz." I've resisted the urge, but it does bother me.

Squeeze
There was a contemporary American band called "Tight Squeeze." So to avoid confusion this British group was, early on, billed as "U.K. Squeeze" in the States. And their first album was  released as U.K. Squeeze. For the longest time I filed that album under U (while all other releases were filed under S. And my database reflected tracks from that first album were reflected as being by U.K. Squeeze instead of Squeeze -- even when they appeared on compilations. A friend (who is a bigger CD collector than I am (though he doesn't keep a database on computer) summed it up succinctly when he found out. "That's mental" he sneered. Perhaps so. What made me change it and file everything under S? Some epiphany that it was mental? No. When I found out that, in Great Britain, the band was always billed without the "U.K." in front of its name and the album was released as Squeeze. Of course, even though my copy of U.K. Squeeze went back to S with the other Squeeze albums, I kept it after Sweets from a Stranger because the album title still had "U.K." in it even if the band name didn't. I have also since learned that the band was also known as U.K. Squeeze in Australia. That was because of an Australian band called Squeeze, and lasted much longer.

The Flamin' Groovies
The Flamin(' -- ?) Groovies made some great music, but for some reason they couldn't decide whether their name had an apostrophe in it. Or maybe they simply changed their minds after three punctuation-less albums. Part of me really wants to reflect two different bands in my database. I also never really know whether to use the hyphen when I write their name. I tend to prefer to include the apostrophe, since it just doesn't look right without it. So the one band in my database has the apostrophe in its name. I'm guessing that if I were to ask Roy Loney or Cyril Jordan about the name, and whether the apostrophe should be there, they'd look at me like I was nuts. Or maybe anal-retentive. Did I mention that I'm anal-retentive?

Lynyrd Skynyrd
When the band reformed in the late '80s after the airplane crash-induced hiatus, here were legal battles over use of the name Lynyrd Skynyrd. As a result, the 1991 album was released as Lynyrd Skynyrd 1991, and the album notes made it clear that the band was also known by that name. I find it interesting that, while Wikipedia mentions and briefly discusses the legal battles, I can't find anything about the band being billed under the expanded name.My database still reflects it as being a different band. I suppose if I liked them better and became a completist when it came to their music I would have to do the resaerch and decide how to reflect them. But I don't and I'm not so I probably won't.

John (Cougar) Mellencamp
When he first started out, John Mellencamp reluctantly agreed to use the stage name "Johnny Cougar" because his manager felt that "Mellencamp" was too difficult a name to market. He went back and forth between John and Johnny. Eventually, when he had had some measure of success he was able to add his real surname to the mix, so several albums were released as "John Cougar Mellencamp." It wasn't until 1991 that the "Cougar" was gone and he started releasing albums as "John Mellencamp." It makes me glad that Jason Ringenberg had a band behind him so his last name didn't become an issue.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Monday, September 24, 2012

picking a nit re an otherwise-great song

One of Nick Lowe's recent songs is "Lately I've Let Things Slide." It's off the 2001 akbum, The Convincer. It's a really good song of depression. One of the better works from his reinvented phase. I have been having trouble recently getting it out of my mind. I do, however, have one complaint about the lyrics. There's a passage:
I go to the bin
I throw the laundry in
And pick out my cleanest shirt
The singer is explaining that, having failed to do the laundry, and having no clean clothes he has to go to his dirty clothes and do the best he can with them. But because of the meter of the song, my mind keeps hearing it as if he is describing a series of thee actions: 1) he goes to the bin; 2) he throws the laundry in; and 3) he picks out his cleanest shirt. That's not what Lowe was trying to convey in the song, but I can't help hearing it that way.

You judge:

Saturday, September 22, 2012

am i destined to be a stephin merritt fan

Stephin Merritt is not a household name*. That's fine. Some of my favorite musicians never quite made it to "household name" status. Many had brushes with it, but are long past it. So that's not a  big deal. Merritt is the lead singer and main songwriter for The Magnetic Fields. I'd never heard of him or the band before I met my wife. When she and I met, she was living in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She was a big fan. Se used to go to Magnetic Fields concerts and sit on the side of the stage. And he'd make fun of the way she dressed. That from a man who only wears brown.

I've tried listening to their music, but never quite got into it. Merritt's voice is haunting, a fact that's enhanced by his deadpan delivery. I sometimes find it fascinating to listen to, but I never got into it.

But over the years, there have been what I will, for lack of a better phrase, call the intrusions of his existence into my consciousness. Given his stature in the music world, it would be easy enough to go through life rarely if ever hearing of him and not taking note when I did. But because my wife is a fan, that doesn't happen.

Early this year I was reminded of him by a CD in a big box of disks I got through Freecycle. I blogged about that back in February.

Another time, I listened to one of his songs and found it kind of good. But then when I went to Amazon and listened to samples from the album, I just didn't like it.

This time it was a film screening hosted by The Modern School of Film. The school is having a series of film screenings. In each, a musician (Neil Finn of Split Enz is up next) is asked to pick one movie to screen. Then, after the screening, there's a conversation and Q&A between the musician and the host. Last night, the musician was Stephin Merritt.

As a film, Merritt chose The Black Lizard, an odd Japanese mystery from 1968. In case you want to see it, here's part 1 (of 9 on Youtube -- I have not checked to make sure all 9 are there, so watch at your own risk):
 When asked why he chose that movie, Merritt explained that he picked it because he wanted to see it -- he hadn't seen it in 18 years and it's not available on DVD.

But getting away from the movie pick, after the film, they showed a Magnetic Fields video for "Andrew in Drag," from their latest album. That was great. Here it is:
I also found the Q&A interesting. Merritt, while not unfriendly, seemed kind of uncomfortable onstage. I couldn't tell if he was angry or bored (after the fact, that's my guess). But at times, he almost seemed to be daring the host to ask him a question.

At one point, and I forget what question prompted this, he said that he's incredibly bored when he sings. He purposely does take after take until he's wooden, because he doesn't believe singers should emote. This, by the way, explains what I observed above about his deadpan delivery. At any rate, he wants to get the emotions of a song from lyrics and the melody -- not from a singer emoting. I was amused by his observation that one of the problems in music is that everyone wants to be Aretha Franklin. He clarified that Aretha Franklin is a good thing, but everyone wanting to be her is a bad thing.

The point here, if there is one, is that with each Merritt encounter I find myself drawn more and more to liking his music. Maybe someday soon I'll be buying his albums?

*A note on my "household name" comment. Originally I wrote "big star." My wife disputed that by noting all the stuff he's done, and at venues like Lincoln Center. He is, she argues, a big star. It's just that he's a big star who few people would recognize. Rather than split hairs or argue semantics, I figured I'd change it to "household name." 

Friday, September 21, 2012

good guy dylan

Rolling Stone magazine has yet another interview with Bob Dylan. I should note at the outset that I haven't read it -- it seems to be behind some subscribers-only firewall. So my comments are based on an article, in Reason, about the interview.

Interviewer Mikal Gilmore devotes an inordinate amount of energy to trying to get Dylan's endorsement of President Obama. To his credit, Dylan demures. Telling quote:
This gives Gilmore his hook: didn't Obama change all that? And isn't it so that people who don't like him don't like him because of race? Gilmore takes five different swings at getting Dylan to agree. Some of Dylan's responses: "They did the same thing to Bush, didn't they? They did the same thing to Clinton, too, and Jimmy Carter before that....Eisenhower was accused of being un-American. And wasn't Nixon a socialist? Look what he did in China. They'll say bad things about the next guy too." On Gilmore's fourth attempt, Dylan just resorts to: "Do you want me to repeat what I just said, word for word? What are you talking about? People loved the guy when he was elected. So what are we talking about? People changing their minds?"
It's particularly ironic given that Dylan made his name in political music.

The thing for me is that I get tired of hearing the show business crowd pushing their opinion as if they know better than anyone else. I even remember reading of one star (I can't remember who) going so far as to say that actors know better because they are trained to play roles and so have more empathy. Now, accepting that claptrap for the sake of argument, it says nothing about understanding whether policies are likely to work or what the unintended consequences may be.

But I digress.

Certainly, celebrities can endorse politicians or policies. But at some point I find it a turn-off. One of the reasons that I lost interest in Christine Lavin (New York-based singer/songwriter who was, in the 1980's, one of the cool breed of "new" folksingers) is that I got tired of her adding politics to her act.

I'll admit that, to some degree, my feelings are a matter of whose ox is being gored. I'd be less bothered if the Hollywood set were endorsing views that I shared. Hey, I'm only human. But even so, when I hear about Hank Williams Jr.'s latest diatribe, I roll my eyes and wish he'd shut up. And I tend to be more sympathetic to his views than to, say, Peter Yarrow's.

I just want to add, with regard to the above quote, that I was particularly glad about Dylan refusing to blame opposition to Obama on race. There are lots of political arguments that I think are wrong. But that one -- that opposition to Obama is about race -- isn't just wrong. It's aggressively wrong, and offensive to boot. Remember, half a decade ago, when we were told that dissent is the highest form of patriotism? Now, judging from some of the rhetoric from some prominent left-wing celebrities (including Dylan's interlocutor), it's the lowest form of racism.

Friday, September 14, 2012

rhyming: "spoil it" and "toilet"

I have now come across a second instance of a pop song rhyming "spoil it" with "toilet."

Not earth-shattering, but an odd enough rhyme that I find it interesting that I';ve come across two instances by very different artists.

The second instance is from "Weid Al" Yankovic's "Wanna B Ur Lovr:"

You're absolutely perfect
Don't speak now, you might spoil it.
You're eyes are even bluer
Than the water in my toilet


The first instance, as all will recall, is from Ian Dury & the Kilburns' "You're More Than Fair:"

A tender moment,
Don't let nothing spoil it.
I shall caress your clitoris
As we reach the toilet.


I'll note that the above video is of an Ian Dury tribute band performing the song. Every video I could find of Ian Dury performing this, or of a studio version contains a (slightly cleaned-up version with the clitoral reference replaced by something slightly less risque. But I still have the original 45 with the lewd version.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

the basher comes to port washington next month

I'll be sseing Nick Lowe in concert next month. He's performing at a small theatre in Port Washington, on Long Island.

It's kind of fortuitous that I found out about it. A few weeks ago I was having dinner at a diner on Long Island with my family and another family. For some reason (probably because I was being a smartass) I mentioned Nick Lowe twice during the dinner conversation. Caryn, the other mother, noted it in puzzlement since she'd never heard of him. Well, my smartassery paid off. Caryn and her husband are mebers of the small theatre in Port Washington, so when the calendar came out and she saw Nick Lowe on the schedule, she called my wife to let me know.

So I have ticket to the show -- sadly, I don't know anyone who is interested enough in Nick Lowe to go as well. But I'll be in seat J109. That's tenth row, near the center. Not bad. I'll be close enough to see his face in detail as he performs.

Maybe I'll be able to nick an autograph after the show.

Funny thing is that I had a chance to see Nick earlier this year. He was opening for Wilco. I didn't bother, since the tickets were kind of expensive, and I have no interest in Wilco. I've had mixed feelings, since one never knows how much longer he'll continue to tour. But now I feel better. These tickets are a little cheaper, the venue is more intimate, I'll be closer, and I won't have to sit through an act that I'd rather not bother with.

I am, as of this moment, a very happy boy.

To give a flavor, here's some recent vintage Nick:


Monday, September 10, 2012

singing about the evil chickens

Like a lot of people, if I'm alone I'll absent-mindedly sing lyrics to songs I know. The other night, for example, I was waiting for the bus, and started singing "I Still Miss Someone." But for some reason I have a habit of replacing the lines with assertions about evil chickens ruling the world. So pretty soon I'm singing sopmething like

I never got over those blue eyes
And evil chickens rule the world

But gradually I start replacing more and more of the lines with the evil chicken references. Eventually, I'm just singing:

Evil, evil chickens
Evil chickens rule the world
Evil, evil chickens.
Evil chickens rule the world.

I hope nobody is listening.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

chatting at the amy and eric show

I had gotten to the Wreckless Eric concert early. The information I had said 7:00, and even though I didn't expect the show to start at 7 on the tick, I didn't realize that the doors weren't scheduled to open until then. So I left and came back a few slices of pizza later. At 7:00 the doors still weren't open, but I was free to hang out at the bar for happy hour. At 7:15 I was kind of lurking around the entrance to the stairs to the show, wanting to be the first (or nearly the first) to go down so I could secure a good spot. There was another guy obviously having the same thoughts. My new nemesis. I sized him up -- about my age. Not as bald as me (damn him!), but his hair was grayer (Ha ha!). Then the doorkeeper explained to us that they were still doing soundchecks and the downstairs bartender still hadn't shown up, but he'd let us down when he could.

So my nemesis and I started chatting. His name was Stuart. It still is, I suppose. He lives in Washington and had come to New York specifically for this show (and was therefore staying around for the Saturday show at Hastings on-Hudson).

What I found interesting is that his interest in Wreckless Eric and Amy Rigby had a different origin than mine. I had been a longtime Wreckless Eric fan. So when he started recording with Amy Rigby (whom he had, by that time, married), I bought those albums. I'll note that I may or may not have heard of Amy Rigby before that. She had been married to Will Rigby of the dBs. I think (though I'm not sure, and I'm too lazy to chack) that he recorded for Diesel Only Records, which put out a bunch of great truck-driving singles a couple of decades ago. In my own little music cocoon, it had never occurred to me that others might have started as Amy Rigby fans. But that's what Stuart's story is. He had, he volunteered, listened to Eric in the eighties. But not beyond that. He was a big fan of Amy's and had attended many of her concerts.

In fact, Stuart was enough of a fan that Amy recognized him and chatted with him. And he had gotten to know Eric through the association. So once we were downstairs discussing music before the show. Eric came over for a little chat. I stood up dumbly not knowing what to say, or if I hould say anything. Hummina hummina hummina. Here's one of my big musical idols standing right here in front of me for a conversation. OK, it's not like he's Justin Bieber and I'm some 16-year-old-girl. But still -- Wreckless. Eric. Talking to me.

Actually, it's not the first time we'd talked at one of his shows. About 20 years ago, when Le Beat Group Electrique was still new, I saw him perform at The Knitting Factory. I remember being so proud in my Stiff Records T-shirt. I didn't know at the time that there had been acrimony when he left Stiff. So I asked him to autograph my copy of the new album. He looked at my T-shirt, and said "Oh, you're one of them." I felt really embarrassed. He signed the album, inscribing "Hope I live up to it all," which I thought was clever. That copy of the album is now in Somerville, where my wife's friend Patti lives. She borrowed it a long time ago. Maybe I'll get it back someday. In the meantime I bought another copy used on the British version of Amazon (for like $100).

The second time I talked to Eric was during the early or mid oughties. I'm not sure what year. But he was playing in New York. During that show I was chatting with Amy Rigby (though I didn't know who she was). She simply described herself as his girlfriend. The two of them talked for a while. I  talked to him briefly and put my foot in my mouth.

So, what could I do? I had to follow tradition. Stuart and Eric greeted each other with a brief hug. I said something like "I take it you've met?" Then proceeded to gtell Eric that he and I had met but he wouldn't remember it. Damn, I have a way with words.

During and before the show, Stuart and I talked a bit about music. We agreed that Nick Lowe is still putting out good music, and that a Rockpile reunion would not be a good idea. We agreed that Kaye's opening opening act was a bit odd, and that Rebecca Pronsky was very good. And, of course, he loved Amy's and Eric's performance.

After the show, and after buying merchandise (a T-shirt, a copy of Eric and Amy's new album, their 7-inch vinyl single, and the two CDs that Rebecca Pronsky was selling), I set out getting autographs. Eric was busy moving equipment, but Amy was friendly. She signed the album and the single. I asked about the Kickstarter reward. She's emailed in July, and I emailed right back, but never got a response. Then, last week I got another email. This had a link to the digital version of the album, which was part of my Kickstarter reward. But her email seemed to read as if she had never gotten mine. She said that sometimes Eric gets emails that he wants to craft a response to, but he ends up putting it away for later and forgets about it. I can believe that. She said to try emailing again. I will.

Eventually, Eric came up to chat with people. I got his autograph, talked a little about music. I mentioned the Kickstarter campaign, and he also said to try emailing again.

Part of me wanted to stay, but I was exhausted and had a family to get home to. So I bid a hasty farewell...

eric and amy in concert

Wreckless Eric and Amy Rigby did a show in the East Village Friday night.I meant to blog about it earlier, but life got in the way.Anywho...

The one advantage of following an artist who is not among today's biggest stars is that you get to be close up. The venue was the basement of Bowery Electric, a small bar on the Bowery. No assigned seats -- actually, it was mostly SRO, but I was the first one down (or second -- waiting for the doors to open, I was chatting with a guy named Stuart, and he and I went down together) so I snagged one of the few chair-like things (a cushion on wheels). The stage was small ("intimate," I suppose, is the polite word), and very close. Being upclose like that is a very different experience than seeing a bigger name in a big venue. It was very much like the house concert where I saw Janey Street play, although the setup was more elaborate.

But the point is that I was watching musicians perform, but I wasn't much fartehr away from them than I would have been if I had been having a normal conversation with them. At my day job, I've had plenty of meetings in which I've talked to people over a farther distance. You can see the emotion on the singer's face, see the strings vibrate on the bass guitar.

The show was billed as Wreckless Eric and Amy Rigby, with Rebecca Pronsky as an opening act. As it turns out, there was a third act -- sort of an opening opening act. I didn't catch her name. Kaye something?

Kaye's performance was a bit odd. Just her and a ukulele (which she sometimes played with a bow, like a viola). She did, however, have a digital loop effect so she could make it sound like there were several people playing ukuleles (or viola-ukes). I couldn't help wondering if this was her first time performing onstage in front of an audience. A couple of times she would have to restart a song because of some mistake she'd made. Also, she was reading either the lyrics or the chord progressions from a sheet of paper that she kept on a chair beside her. Her choice of of material was also a bit odd. I think it was all cover tunes, though I only recognized one of them -- Queen's "Fat Bottomed Girls."

And that, I guess, gets at the heart of the song. There's a certain incongruity in hearing a Queen Song performed on a ukulele. And, of coouyrse, that wasn't the only song she did was writtne from the point of view of someone appreciating the female form. Her first song, the title of which I didn't catch, was also from that poerspective, and explicitly identified the singer as male. So I, as a heterosexual male, couldn't help but wonder if Kaye is gay, or if she just likes those particular songs?

Kaye was followed by Rebecca Pronsky, who was much better. Pronsky, whom I hadn't heard of, is part of Brooklyn's music scene. She was accompanied by her guitarist (and, I suspect, significant other), Rich Bennet. She seemed, in some ways, to be a country singer, though the arrangements were more Duane Eddy-ish. I suppose a big part of that is due to the Bennet's haunting guitar twang. It was a short set, that I wished would go on longer. It was enough to convince me to buy copies of both CDs that she was selling.

When Eric and Amy started their set, there was an immediate shift in energy. Rebecca's set had been subddued and measured. Then Eric and Amy start in, quite loudly with electric guitar and electric bass. Suddenly the prior set seemed constricted. They concentrated on material from the three albums they did together (the third is just out), which is understandable, though a bit dissapointing. My knowledge of Eric's music is encyclopedic when it comes to his Stiff Records years, and reasonable for the years after. But I'm not as up on all the material he and Amy did together. And they didn't do "Men in Sandals" or "Astrovan," which are possibly their best know material from recent years. I think the highpoint was "I Get Out of Breath," (from Two-Way Family Favourites), which I recognize as a Turtles song, though I don't think they were the original performers of it either. I also really enjoyed "Zero to Minus One" from the new album, and a song which they described as being about how they met, but which I don't recognize from any of their albums. I'll have to look into that. I would have loved to hear them do "The Downside of Being a Fuck Up" from their eponymous album.

They pretty much eschewed their pre-coupling material for the show, though for an encore they did one song from each of their prior careers. For him it was "(I'd Go the) Whole Wide World," and from hers it was "Dancing with Joey Ramone." Then, they closed with "I Still Miss Someone."

I left elated. As I've noted in prior posts, I've been a big fan of Eric's for 30 years or so. Watching him now isn't the same as it would have been back in the eighties, during the peak of his career. He's pushing sixty, and doesn't have the same energy. The music isn't the same anymore. But damn if it isn't fun to watch him.

The following video of "Dancing with Joey Ramone" isn't from the concert in question. But it should give you an idea...
I have a lot to say about chatting with them, and with Stuart (whom I mentioned above). But I'd like to leave this post as a simple discussion of the concert.



Thursday, August 23, 2012

concert (elaboration)

When I posted my brief comment about the concert, I was intending to follow up very shortly with a fuller post. I'm finally getting around to it.

There were four bands on the bill - Cracker, Big Head Todd & the Monsters, Blus Traveler and Barenaked Ladies

Cracker were on first. Surprisingly, they went on on time, so I didn't see most of their act from my seat. My sister and I were just getting in the Theatre (Jones Beach -- it's an open-air venue) when they started, and we spent time buying food. But I could see them on the monitors. I would have thought I'd like it better, since I have a few Cracker albums. I've never really been into them as a band, but I did like "What the World Needs Now" when I heard it on the radio once about 15 or so years ago. They're OK. A few good songs. But the performance that I saw seemed uninspired.

Big Head Todd were a little better, but for the most part I didn't really get into them. A lot opf loud directionless guitar-leads. There was one really good song -- "Sexy and I Know It." I assume that's the title. Slide guitar, George Thorogood-style vocals. If the whole concert would have been like this, I would have been a happy man. John Popper joined them onstage for a few songs. Boy, has he lost weight.

Blues Traveler was on next. The good thing was that at this point it was clear that each band was better than the previous. The thing with Blues Traveler is that I really want to like them -- they have lots of elements that should make for a band I'd like. But I just can't get into them. They played "Run Around," which was cool. But other than that, meh. The most interesting part of the performance was that at first my sister and I were trying to figure out if it was Blues Traveler or Barenaked Ladies. The presence of John Popper should have given it away, but for some reason I was under the impression that Blues Traveler wasn't on the bill. Finally, after they mentioned their new album, Suzie Cracks the Whip, and we could look it up online we concluded that it was Blues Traveler.

Barenaked Ladies was much better than I expected. Since it's a band I've never really been into, and I'm not really familiar with their repertoire, I didn't expect to enjoy them. But they were good. Humor helped. I actually did recognize a few songs -- "If I Had a Million Dollars," the theme from Big Bang Theory. The set was on the short side, but I have to weigh that against the fact they were the fourth band to perform. The played all the songs my sister wanted to hear, which was good. The liveliest part of the performance was the encore, where the drummer came out from behind his kit and sang lead -- while jerking around the stage like a spastic chicken. I liked that.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

concert

Went to see the Barenaked Ladies concert.

I was really looking forward to it. My kind of show, or so I thought.

Talk about false advertising

Friday, August 10, 2012

barenaked ladies concert next week

My sister is visiting from out of state -- she arrives today.

Next week she's taking me to a Barenaked Ladies concert at Jones Beach.

When she first mentioned it, I was thinking that BnL was one f those swing revival bands that were big in the '90s -- like Cherrypoppin' Daddies, Squirrel Nut Zippers and the Brian Setzer Orchestra. But looking them up on Wikipedia, I see that they're more alt than swing. And I recognize the song "If I had $1000000," which was adapted by the New York Lottery for their ads. Sounds, from the Wikipedia article, like the concert should be fun. Unfortunately, they are all fully-clothed males. Can I sue for false advertising?

A sample:


Oh, since they also did the theme from Big Bang Theory (which I assume is how my sister is familiar with them -- she loves BBT), this post sort of fits in with the series on TV theme songs.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

someone else's list of top tv theme songs (part i)

I was at work and, for no reason I asked a coworker (let's call him "Peter") what he thought was the best TV show theme song ever. He thought for a second and came up with Hawaii Five-O. A good choice. I picked -- though I caveated it that within a day, or even an hour, I might pick something else -- The Munsters.

Curious to see what others might say, Peter looked it up on Google, and found this list, purportedly of the top 50 theme songs of all time. I don't agree with all of the picks. But what I'm going to do is go through them and provide my own comments. To make it more manageable (OK, you got me, I'm just trying to draw it out), I will comment on 10 themes per post. Then, after I finish off in five posts, I'll comment on a few themes that I think should have been on the list but weren't.

So, here we are, with their picks 50 through 41:

50: Beverly Hills 90210
They tried to rock on this theme, which I suppose was appropriate. But they ended up with some overproduced boring 90s rock. The fact that it's an instrumental works against it as well -- at leat in my ears (my comment regarding The Munsters nothwithstanding). I wouldn't have included this.

49: Rawhide
A great choice. Great old country music. And the Blues Brothers' version in their movie was a great cover version.


48: The Odd Couple
You know what is even more likely to annoy me than instrumental themes? Spoken narration themes. This starts with narration, then gives way to instrumental. It's designed to have me hate it. But I have to admit it's catchy. Maybe.


47: Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
Lousy show. Great theme. I love that line "Yo, Homes, smell you later." This is a great example of the exposition theme song -- the kind that explains the backstory, so that someone coming off a desert island who has never heard of the show can turn it on and know the premise. Gilligan's Island and The Brady Bunch are other examples of shows with exposition themes. Fresh Prince came with one that was so long and detailed that they had to cut it down after the first few episodes.


46: The A-Team
Like The Odd Couple, this starts with spoken narration and ends with instrumental theme music. Unlike The Odd Couple, the theme music isn't catchy. I suppose it's fitting for the tone of the show. But I just don't like it.


45: Dallas
The first thing I should note is that I never watched Dallas. That tends to cut against it, since sometimes repeated exposure to a theme song can make one like it more than it deserves. That kind of works along with some theories I have about musical taste that I should talk about in a future post. At any rate, unfamiliar with the Dallas theme, I had to look it up on Youtibe specifically for this post. It's actually not bad. Kind of catchy for an instrumental theme.


44: Barney Miller
I love that bass run. Wonderful. The rest of the song is a bit of letdown. Not bad, though. I can see including this.


43: Twin Peaks
Another show that I never watched, and whose theme I had to look up on Youtube. Is the video below the actual theme? It sucks. I mean, bioring as all getout. What were they thinking?


42: Bonanza
A great bouncy theme that suffers only for being an instrumental. And I should note that there were lyrics that were, for some reason left off when they ran this with the show.


41: All in the Family
This is a much better theme song that the actual performance of it for the show. Of course, the O'Connor-Stapleton rendition fit the show much better than a more polished renderring would have. And it became better in later seasons when the diction was better and you could make out that line "Gee our old LaSalle ran great!" There are a bunch of other verses to this song that didn't make it to the show.


And here, as a bonus, is a clip of Carol O'Connor singing the closing theme:

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

now to plan for recording with wreckless

I wrote about Wreckless Eric's Kisckstarter campaign here.

The campaign is closed, and Eric and Amy have gotten $12,000 in pledges -- 50% more than they were shooting for. I've been charged my $500, and I now am looking forward to recording with them. I have gotten two emails. The first was a very generic one that was sent to all 292 people who pledged. It simply said that the rewards were being prepared and would be sent out when ready. The second one is more specific to my situation:

hi [Moish]

Thanks for backing us (or whatever the correct terminology is here). We need to work out a time when you can come to the studio and do a track with us.

So what we probably need is a list of likely dates from you plus any sort of demo you might have - though you don't have to have a demo, or even a finished song, just some sort of idea of what you'd like to do. Anything - six lines on the back of an envelope, a snatch of a tune whistled onto a cassette... Or nothing and we'll improvise on the day!

I'm probably not making much sense - we've never done this before - Kickstarter I mean. We've done plenty of recording sessions!

Anyway, let me
know - best thing would be to contact me by email directly - [ wreckless eric's email address ]
 Eric
I have to write back. I'm not sure what song I would want to record with them. Seems clear they're open to being flexible.  I have three complete songs, any one of which I'd be thrilled to record with them. I guess I'd most love to record "Jackpot" with them, since that's my favorite. But since that's the one with the most-polished demo, it seems that I get the least additional value if one of my purposes is to improve the quality of what I have to send as demos to artists, agents, record companies, etc. On that score, though, I think all three demos are usable. So maybe rerecording one of them is of limited value in those terms.

I've been hoping to finish writing another song -- I have a couple in process -- a chorus and general concept for "Bleed Me a River," as well as a concept and opening verse for something that I am (for now) calling "Missing One." I also have a title and little more for "(Fresh Out of) Give a Damns." But between work and family, I just don't have the time to sit down with the guitar and complete anything.

I am, though, open to working with them to complete one of my fragments, or to write something totally new. As one of Wreckless Eric's fans for more than thirty years, I'd love the chance to write with him. But that then creates new complications. Would they be OK with my registering the copyright in all of our names? Would they be OK with my trying to shop the song around? In the event that I get it recorded, who owns what percentage? 50% for me and 50% for them together? 33 and a third  % for each of us? Something else? Of course the thought of being able to register a copyright in my name and Eric's and Amy's is something quite fantastic for me (note that I am using the word "fantastic" to mean something out of fantasy, rather than simply "great"). And perhaps if I have a song that I cowrote with them there is a greater chance that they would record it on one of their albums, thereby giving me a credit (and a few dollars).

I will probably write back, explaining that I am having a hard time choosing between songs. I have three demos (of varying quality) that I'd like to send. I'd like to go with whichever they find most suitable. Of course, I will note, I also have some partially written material that I'd be happy to work with if any of those strike them. I can also mention the logistical (copyright,ownership, etc.). I think I'll note that my preference is to complete a song with them.

There is another issue to check on: I assumed, though they never specifically said, that I can have Eric take the vocals on our recording. I want to make sure that that's OK -- partly because I love the idea of having a recording of him singing one of my songs, and partly because I am a lousy singer.

 I am also hoping that they know how to go about registering specific songs (or recordings?) with ASCAP so that if by chance something of mine gets recorded and played on air (or, for example, my friend HP Mendoza uses one of my songs in one of his movies), I can get the few dollars of royalties. Given that I won't get much money, it's almost a point of pride just to get a royalty check from ASCAP.

Finally, there's something I want to ask Eric. On the Live Stiffs album (from the Stiff Records package tour from the late '70s, featuring performances by Nick Lowe, Eric, Larry Wallis, Elvis Costello and Ian Dury), before he starts "Reconnez Cherie," he anounces that his guitar doesn't work. After some confusion he plugs it in and says, "Ahh. I forgot to plug me in." I want to know if that was truly him being himself and legitimately not realizing that he wasn't plugged in, or if it was an act that he did at every show.

Monday, July 23, 2012

pruncle

My niece, who is a reporter for the Oregonian will beinterviewing the guitarist from Kiss.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Thursday, July 12, 2012

i can wrecord with wreckless — for a price

My wife found another Kickstarter campaign for me to get behind.

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/310096071/wreckless-eric-and-amy-rigby-new-album

Wreckless Eric is one of my absolute favorite musicians. I should follow that up with a blogpost describing my history as a Wreckless Eric fan. Until then, take my word for it. Anyway, Eric and his wife, Amy Rigby, are working on their next album (it will be their third album together), and raising money on Kickstarter. The big thing for me is the reward for a $500 pledge:

Record a track with Eric & Amy at The Souther Domestic Facility — spend a day with us in our studio recording a track of your choice. If you don't have a song we'll help you write one. Take the lid off the mystery... See how we do it... come away sounding exactly like us... And if you need accomodation we'll put you up for the night. This offer is designed for individuals, not for bands without prior agreement. This reward includes a free download of the album.

So I can make a demo with Eric and Amy of one of my songs. A recording of a song I wrote, with one of my musical idols playing on it. Actually, I suspect he'll be singing too, since I can't sing on key or in tune. Maybe I'll end up with a usable demo (which would make this cheap for a usable demo), or maybe I'll come away with a recording that I love but that can't be used as a demo. Either way, it's an extravagant gift to myself. But I know that if I don't do this now, when I can, then I'll spend years kicking myself, that I missed a chance to record a track with Wreckless Eric.

Not sure which song I'll want to record. I've had thoughts of writing something new for the occaison -- especially since I have a couple works in progress. Maybe I can finish one of them off. Barring that, I'll probably bring demos and lyric sheets of everything I have and ask Eric and Amy what they would want to work with me on. And, I have the maybe-I'll win-the-lottery type of fantasy that they'll like one of my songs so much that they'll want to record it themselves for a future album. Amy Rigby is, afterall, known within the New York City C&W scene.

For now, here's the only "official" Wreckless Eric video I've been able to find on Youtube. Be aware that it's like 30 years old:

Monday, July 9, 2012

a kickstarter campaign i can get behind

So my wife found this on Kickstarter.

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/180960585/strangelys-first-album

A musician and circus performer named Strangely. In some ways he kind of reminds me of The Dusty Buskers about whom I blogged previously. But he seems less wedded to any one genre, unless "fun" qualifies as a genre. He's also got the coolest kickstarter awards I've seen yet. Makes me wish I had an extra $10,000 lying around. I don't. But if you do, please consider donating it to Strangely's Kickstarter campaign. I'm pledging my nineteen bucks 'cos I want a copy of the album.

Good luck, Strangely.

Monday, July 2, 2012

a song in klingon?

We were in the car with the radio on, and they started playing Blue Swede's version of "Hooked on a Feeling." During the "ooka-chaka" (spelling?) part at the beginning, my sin commented that it sounded like the song was in Klingon.

Friday, June 22, 2012

another word on soundtracks

So, one of my kids is watching the movie, Paul, on the internet. And I hear it beginning to the strains of the new wave song, "Another Girl, Another Planet." And recently I was in the room when someone started watching Bad Teacher on DVD. That movie opens with Rockpile's "Teacher Teacher." In both cases, hearing this made me want to watch the movie. Never mind that I have both songs on CD, and otherwise had no interest in seeing the movie. Somehow, though, the inclusion of a song I like tells my brain that I'll like the movie. Even if I won't.

It reminds me how, two years ago, I was looking on Youtibe for Wreckless Eric videos, and found a scene from Stranger Than Fiction, in which Will Ferrell picks up a guitar in his date's apartment and starts singing "(I'd Go the) Whole Wide World." Video follows:
I remember seeing that, and my estimation of the movie shot up. I still haven't bothered seeing it, but still...

Friday, June 15, 2012

meet the xylopholks

I was walking through the Union Square subway station yesterday, and heard xylophone music. It was coming from a corner where there is often a musician or band playing as part of the Transit Authority's Music Under New York program.

Sure enough, I recognized the yellow and black banner identifying the performers as "Xylopholks." Playing under the banner were two people -- a man in a penguin costume (I would later realize it was a skunk costume, but my imprerssion was penguin) and a woman (I think) in a pink gorilla costume. The punk (that's penguin/skunk mix) was playing xylophone while the pink gorilla was slappinng a stand-up bass.

The music was happy and upbeat, kind of ragtimish. The xylophone was intriguing. I didn't have time enough to watch for very long, so I bought a CD ($5) and was on my way.

Rather than try to describe Xylophopholks, I'll let their website do it for them:
The XYLOPHOLKS are a dynamic group of musicians who mostly play novelty ragtime music from the 1920′s (featuring the xylophone!). They do so while wearing furry animal costumes. The XYLOPHOLKS wish to make people happy and perhaps even dance. Please feel free to contact us about providing music and entertainment for your events
Can't complain about that. Apparently, who plays in the group depends on what gig you catch. Here's them (or a proper subset of them) on their 5 Borough Bodega tour:

As to the CD? Not bad. I'd be lying if I said that, without the costumes, the charm is still all there. On the other hand, its pleasant music. Not generally a genre I'm into. It's the kind of stuff that I'm happy to listen to for a track at a time between other things -- i.e., as part of a mix. But I'm not interested enough to listen to the whole disc at once.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

israeli pop as spaghetti western theme music

Yesterday I posted about how I have gotten into the theme music from spaghetti westerns.

I neglected to mention that some of my favorite Israeli pop music sounds very similar to the spaghetti western music, and wouldn't feel out of place in those films.

A few examples follow:

First,שיירת הרוכבים ("Caravan of Riders"), an oft-covered song by The Duda'im:


The second one is called חמישה פחות אחד (which translates to "Five Less One"). It's by "Benny's Friends," It's in a sense, a toast to a missing friend. I assume it's a friend who died in war. Interestingly, the album with this song also has a cover of "Caravan of Riders"):
Finally, there's Ron Eliran, performing שארם -א -שיח ("Sharm-A-Sheikh" -- it's the name of a town in the Sinai). This was a song dating from the 1967 war, in which Eliran sings about returning to Sharm-A-Sheikh a second time -- he's singing in the first-person plural, as in "We returned to you a second time." The first time, presumably, was during the 1956 war. There is a Youtube video with the original hit version. But since it, like the two above, isn't really a "video" in the full sense, I've decided, for this song, to include a live concert version:


Now, don't any of those three songs sound like they could have been in a spaghetti western?


Tuesday, June 12, 2012

spaghetti western themes

The Film Forum, an artsy movie house in Greenwich Village, has been having a spaghetti western festival. I spent most of Sunday with my son, watching the "Man With No Name" trilogy. That's after spending Friday with him watching thee other movies -- Hellbenders, Face to Face and Death Rides a Horse. This was kind of a followup to our taking a cinema history course at a local community college. The class, which ended a couple months ago, concentrated on spaghetti westerns.

Through this, I've been getting into the music from Spaghetti Westerns. Of course, there's the classic of the genre, Ennio Morricone's theme from The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. Give a listen:
That's a strangely copmpelling melody that combines latin elements with Duane Eddy-style twangy guitar. And the harmonica. But it's instrumental, which for me is a strike against it. In a sense it's more mood music than song. But interestingly it does build on the theme music from its predecessors, A Fistful of Dollars and For a Few Dollars More.

In terms of real songs, I was drawn to the theme from Django, a film starring Franco Nero. The professor showed us a scene from that movie, which was enough for me to seek it out on YouTube. Really good movie. But my point in mentioning it here is that I love the theme song. Listen here:
In the theatre, between films, they were playing a ctachy song that I didn't recognize. I did, however, make a point of remembering the line, "There's just kind of man that you can trust. That's a dead man. Or a Gringo like me." When I got home I was able (with the help of the intertubes) identify it as a song from Gunfight at Red Sands:


Monday, June 11, 2012

16 × 16 =/= 14 × 18

I was in the car today, listening to Allan Sherman with a friend. The last song on Sherman's second album, My Son the Celebrity, is "Shticks of One and a Half a Dozen of the Other." It's a medley of bits, kind of like "Shticks and Stones," the medley that closed out his first album, My Son, the Folk Singer.

Give a listen:


That first bit, a partody of "Molly Malone" (AKA "Cockles and Mussels" or "In Dublin's Fair City"), contains the line "My Molly stands out 'cos she weighs eighteen stone" followed by the parenthetical comment, "That's 256 pounds." Problem is, it's not. A stone is (or, more precisely, was when the song was written) 14 pounds. So 18 stone is equal to 252 pounds.

I am guessing that Sherman's mistake came about by assuming that (x+a) × (x-a) = x × x and therefore that 18 × 14 = 16 × 16 = 256. That's an error that's common among the inumerate. I remember when I was in college, working on the campus newspaper. A friend enlarged a photo to 125% of its original size. Then shrank the enlarged copy to 75% of its size. He was puzzled that the final version was smaller than the original.

I know it's not really a big deal. But it still hurts my ears every time I hear that line.

As a consolation prize, let me share with you a video I found while looking for the one posted above:
If you want this to be relevant to this year's presidential election, note the bit that starts at about 1:05.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

the importance of soundtracks

Over Memorial Day, my family and I were in Baltimore for a drive-in movie. There's a theatre there that does an all-night showing for Memorial Day weekend and again for Labor Day weekend. It kind of drove home to me how important it can be to choose the right background music for a movie.

The first show was The Pirates! Band of Misfits. It wasn't a particularly good movie. But I loved the soundtrack. "London Calling" by the Clash, "Swords of 1000 Men" by Tenpole Tudor... It kept me interested enough to that I was watching just to see what would be played next. It reminded me of the Shrek movies, which had great choices in their soundtracks.

Dark Shadows, which was the last feature (they showed four movies), was set in 1972, so they needed period tracks to enhance the sensation that you were watching the 1970s. During dinner, the daughter puts Donovan's "Season of the Witch." That came out in 1966, so it fits. I also couldn't help noticing the T. Rex album, The Slider, which came out in 1972.

Anyone interested in "Season of the Witch" can hear it here:
Men in Black 3 and Think Like a Man didn't have much memorable in their soundtracks (though I'll admit that the latter was very R&B heavy and I'm not much of a fan of what constitutes R&B today).

Saturday, May 26, 2012

a shortcoming of access

In keeping a database of my CD collection, I find myself very frustrated that Microsoft Access doesn't have a built-in time function. I'm not talking about time as in on a clock. It has that. I'm talking about elapsed time so that I can have that as a field in the table of tracks. Instead I have to fake it with two fields, one for minutes and one for seconds. So a tack that is, say, three minutes and 29 seconds long has 3 in the minutes field and 29 in the seconds field. An alternative would be to have just seconds, in which case the same track would have 209. But what I'd prefer is one field in which I input 3:29.

Anyone know a workaround?

Friday, May 25, 2012

i don't eulogize much anymore

There have been a few recent high profile deaths in the music world, and I havenm't commented on them. When I started this blog, early this year, and I was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, I commented on the deaths of Johnny Otis and Etta James -- two figures who were very influential but not exactly household names any more.

Now, we have Robin Gibb, Adam Yauch and Donna Summer all died within a short period (and Dick Clark died a bit ago. And I failed to note any of those deaths or eulogize them. I did, of course, eulogize Davy Jones when he died.

So why the difference? Well, to a certain degree it was that I was no longer quite as bright-tailed and bushy-eyed. Add to that the fact that these were three musicians about whom I didn't have a lot to say (and about whom others had already said much).

My thoughts on them?
1) Donna Summer: Of course I know the name and some of her music, but it was never my thing. My strongest association is to the song "Disco Suicide" which Mad Magazine put out sometime around 1980 as part of a disco special. There was a couplet. "If that truns out to be a bummer / I'll swallow a casette of Donna Summer."

2) Adam Yauch: I kind of liked the Beastie Boys, especially some of their early stuff. The Licensed to Ill album had some really good tracks. I also liked "She's On It," which predates that album. Oh, also, their original drummer -- Kate Schellenbach -- was in my high school class. But we didn't know each other. I wouldn't recognize her on the street and she, of course, wouldn't recognize me either. That was true when we were in high school too.


3) Robin Gibbs: Yes, I know the BeeGees were huge. But they have never really been part of my consciousness, except maybe for the soundtrack to Saturday Night Fever.


So now you know why I didn't eulogize them.